In 2007, Valve released Portal on P.C. and console. The game was very well done and quickly rose to be a very well known game but one of the things it was most famous for was its debut in the Orange Box. For those of you unfamiliar with what this is, Valve created a package of five of their best games: Half Life Two, Half Life 2 Episode 1, Half Life 2 Episode 2, Team Fortress 2, And Portal; and the whole thing only costs $30, an unprecedented deal in gaming. Portal was a puzzle solving game that took you through the Aperture Science facility. You were given a portal device that let you place portals around test chambers, and you progressed through the facility with GLaDOS, a seemingly friendly AI, talking to you as you go. You discover that GLaDOS’s intentions are to kill you and you escape the testing area and make your way to GLaDOS where you destroy her. What made Portal good was the complex simplicity of it. It was the simple idea of “blue portal here, orange portal there” that made the game easy to understand and play, but the ways you could use those two portals required some intense thinking. Valve announced about a year ago that they would be making a second Portal game (instead of working on Half Life 2 Episode 3 which has been delayed for about 4 years) and three days ago after a lot of build up, Portal 2 was released; and this is what I thought.
The gameplay in Portal 2 is very similar to Portal, and if you played the first game, getting into Portal 2 will be very easy. Like in the first game you have a portal device that lets you place two portals, orange and blue. These portals let you transport yourself between the two points that you place the portals on. These portals also must be used, not just to manipulate yourself, but to manipulate the environment around you. The game will present you with a variety of tool that will help you through a level as well as many obstacles. There are buttons and switches that open doors and turn things on when pressed, and some have to be held down continuously which is why cubes are provided to hold the buttons down. There is repulsion gell and propulsion gell, which will allow you to move very quickly and jump very high. Thermal Discouragement Beams will burn your enemies, and yourself if you are not careful, and will activate special switches. Most of these things were not present in the first game and it really makes the facility feel like a laboratory with all of these high tech, sci-fi gadgets lying around. Another improvement from the first game is that the campaign takes some time to finish. The first Portal was a short game and could be completed in about 4 hour but Portal two has a longer single player campaign and includes Co Op for even more fun.
Picking up a many years after the events of the first Portal, you resume control of Chell, the protagonist from the first game. You wake up in what appears to be a hotel room but upon meeting a spherical robot attached to a rail on the ceiling whose name is Wheately, you discover you are still in the Aperture Science Facility. You and Wheately begin to plan your escape together but in doing so you inadvertently activate the dormant GLaDOS. GLaDOS attempts to extract revenge on you for killing her, by testing you again in the destroyed test chambers as she slowly rebuilds the facility. Wheately plans an escape and in the middle of one of the tests, you follow Wheately out of the testing area and make your way through the areas around the testing rooms. The two of you begin to plot the demise of GLaDOS for a second time, and proceed to cary out your plan. After an interesting plot twist which will not be mentioned for risk of spoiling it, you find yourself alone at the very bottom of the facility, a few miles underground, where you discover the original Aperture Science facility that was built in 1951 by Cave Johnson. Cave originally used highly trained military personnel for his tests but later resorted to paying people off the streets to help him and eventually made it mandatory that all employees test. His ultimate goal was to beat Black Mesa, the research facility from the original Half life, in their race to develop portals, but he became very ill before his goal was completed. As we all already know, Black Mesa won but in doing so, they teleported aliens into the facility and later another group of aliens teleported to earth taking it over and enslaving all surviving humans, which is also the reason why the Half Life series connects to the Portal series. The story of this game is much more complex and interesting than in Portal. The original story was good but a little too simple: you do tests, you almost get killed, you escape, and finally you killed the bad guy, end of story. Portal 2 has many plot twists and complicated characters, some of which aren’t even alive. Also Portal 2 has the same witty humor that Portal and after many of the dialog sequences you cant help but laugh a little.
Unlike in the first Portal, Portal 2 incorporates multiplayer in the form of a Co Op campaign. The game play is very similar to single player but all of the tasks cannot be completed unless you and your partner work together. You play as a pair of robots called Atlas and P body, and you were designed by GLaDOS to do what humans couldn’t (other than Chell), complete her tests. The Co Op story is much simpler that the single player but that doesn’t take away from the overall experience.
Valve has once again delivered a very good and unique game. The story is engaging and the game play is simple yet complex. The addition of Co Op adds to the overall experience as well. At the end of the day, I would give this game a 9.5 out of 10. Hopefully Valve will do just as good with Half Life 2 Episode 3 as they did with Portal 2 if they ever get around to releasing it.